APG gets new commander of war-equipment testing

August 16, 2006|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

For much of his 30-year Army career, Col. Frank D. "Del" Turner III has worked with weaponry in the field. As of today, when he is installed as the head of the largest operation at Aberdeen Proving Ground, he will oversee testing of equipment before it reaches soldiers in the field.

Turner, a 1977 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the new commander of the Developmental Test Command at APG, recently arrived at the Harford County base from his previous posting in Atlanta, where he served as chief of the training division at the U.S. Army Forces Command. His first impressions of APG are favorable.

"This test center is one of the most active of the seven across the nation, and the command has done well here," Turner said. "It continues to find ways to support our war fighters overseas, testing everything before it goes to war."

Turner arrives at a time when APG's significance as a key military installation is on the rise because of the federal base realignment process. The test center operates on about 75,000 acres at the base and is involved in testing everything from boots to tanks, said APG spokesman Michael Cast.

Turner, 50, will lead a center that employs about 3,000 civilians and 4,000 contractors. His immediate military staff also includes about 70 soldiers.

The testing helps military officials determine what weaponry and equipment make it to the field.

The center also examines manned and unmanned aircraft, robotic and missile systems, large artillery and small arms, armored personnel carriers, protective gear and clothing.

Personnel from the center traveled to Kuwait last year to install data-recording instruments - much like the black boxes in passenger jets - in combat vehicles. Information from the recorders is used in assessing performance of the vehicles, Cast said.

Aberdeen tests vehicles against new threats, such as those from increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices, he said.

Turner replaces Brig. Gen. Michael L. Combest, who is retiring after a 32-year Army career.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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